Hemp, drone regulations can’t leave the U behind

Regulation of unmanned aircrafts and hemp shouldn’t trip up University research programs.

University of Minnesota research was implicated in two very different conversations at the state Legislature, the Minnesota Daily reported last week.

Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, is sponsoring a bill to loosen restrictions on industrial hemp in research at colleges and universities.

University researchers are currently restricted to small amounts of hemp obtained from specific facilities. Making industrial hemp more accessible to higher education could have statewide agricultural, pharmaceutical and economic benefits.

The school is also implicated, albeit indirectly, in the growing discussion of drones at the Capitol. State regulation of drones is a hot topic nationwide, and legislation so far has been patchy and even crude.

At least 10 bills have been introduced in the Minnesota Legislature this session. While we applaud lawmakers for their proactivity, some bills could unintentionally hinder research.

Many of the academic uses for drones are separate from the type of behavior that these bills are meant to regulate.

That doesn’t mean drone use in research should be treated as categorically separate under the law or otherwise be free from regulation. However, as the University rightfully devotes many resources to lobbying for bonding projects, the school needs to make its stake in drone legislation known. In turn, state regulation of unmanned aircraft must be nuanced and mindful of drones’ many uses.